Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Administration drops one-third of people on waiting list for physical disability services

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

One third of the people with physical disabilities who have been waiting for assistance from the state have been removed from the list, many because they could not be reached, Gov. Sam Brownback's administration announced Monday.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, and Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Shawn Sullivan said the state now has a better handle on the waiting list and officials will move forward with spending money that was available July 1 to provide services for 100 people.

The issue centers on a program that provides services to help Kansans with physical disabilities live in their homes or other community-based settings as an alternative to more expensive and confining nursing home care.

Brownback's administration has been under fire for not providing help to thousands of low-income Kansans with physical disabilities. The federal government has been investigating complaints that the state is violating the civil rights of people who are waiting for assistance, some of whom have been waiting for years.

In July, 3,462 people with physical disabilities were on the waiting list.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services hired a call center to try to contact people on the waiting list. The agency then had the Centers for Independent Living and other case management entities certify those on the waiting list.

Secretary Sullivan said 1,226 people were removed from the waiting list.

Many could not be reached and about 10 percent were determined ineligible for services, he said. Sullivan provided no specific numbers from survey, but did say a small percentage had died while on the waiting list.

Colyer and Sullivan said that people who are on the waiting list who fall into a crisis or life-threatening situation can access the care that they need.

Colyer said the state's proposal to move to KanCare, which places the Medicaid program in the hands of private managed care companies, will provide better continuity of services for those with disabilities.

Advocates for people with physical disabilities have been filing Olmstead complaints, based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says states must provide services to people with disabilities to enable them to be more integrated in the community.

Earlier this year, negotiations between the Brownback administration and officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services broke down. HHS then forwarded the waiting list complaints to the U.S. Justice Department, which has said enforcement of the Olmstead ruling is a top priority of the agency.